Jodi Thomas on Heroes and Daredevils

Author Jodi Thomas talks about daredevils, everyday heroes, and the man who inspired the hero of this month’s Somewhere Along the Way.

In the world of fiction we love to read about men who are bigger than life. Heroes and daredevils. I’ve found that most of the time it’s hard to define the line between the two. In life, as well as in books, there seems to be a certain kind of man who walks the knife’s edge between one and the other.

In my stories I love to create a hero who fights for what is right, who wins battles against injustice or saves the day, but there is another kind of man who takes one step further along the road. The daredevil, the man who doesn’t see, or fear death. He lives in many fields. He’s the barnstormer among pilots, the bull rider among rodeo people, the Special Forces in the military. 

In my new Somewhere Along the Way I had a great deal of fun creating a character who grows up and falls in love with the thrill of the rodeo. 

I grew up in Texas and Oklahoma with an uncle who was president of a local rodeo association. Every summer I rode in the small town parade, spent nights watching the rodeo while sitting on a horse named Midnight. I loved watching every wonderful, frightening, exciting minute of it.

When I began my story about the people of a small town named Harmony, Noah McAllen was one of the first characters to come along. I had to make him a bull rider with more guts than brains and a love for adventure that infected everyone around him.

For the past few months I’ve been doing research on bull riders. Just by accident one afternoon I was talking to a man in his early forties who was a fireman. We were both waiting for a play to start. I mentioned that I was writing about rodeo bull riders. He tugged up his sleeve and showed me a long ugly scar running up his arm.

“That’s just one,” he said. “There are others.”

The character in my book is named Noah. I watched this fireman sitting beside me and in my mind my Noah came alive before my eyes. The fireman might be older and wiser than my young man, but the love for rodeo was still there.

He moved to the edge of his chair as he talked, widening his long legs as if getting ready for the gate to open.

“I started college,” he said. “Into my sophomore year I got to going with a friend to rodeos. At first we rode to pick up a little extra money and for the thrill. Then we got our cards and took it seriously. School became less and less important as I began to ride every weekend. It was almost like a drug. We lived for the ride.”

He laughed and said, “It’s been almost twenty years but I can feel the adrenaline running through my body just thinking about the ride. If I thought I could still ride, I’d be in line to draw a bull right now.”

I laughed inside knowing no one would probably understand how exciting it was for me to meet someone so like one of the people in my head.

Harmony is a real place in my mind. Like in life, it’s full of good people trying to get through the best way they can. Some are heroes fighting fires and arresting bad guys, and some a quiet heroes helping folks deal with grief and manage the hard times.

Come along with me to Harmony. You’ll be glad you stopped in for a visit and meet friends you’ll remember long after you finish the book.

- Jodi Thomas

You can pick up your own copy of Somewhere Along the Way on shelves now!